Building your own drone is a fun and exciting experience. With the number of options out there, it’s easy to get a complete kit with everything you need to build a high-quality device. However, if you’re experienced with building these flying machines, you might have specific needs that extend beyond what a kit provides you with.
A flight controller is a critical drone element. Without one, you’ll have a device that will look cool but won’t be able to fly. The controllers may not look like much, but the small circuit boards enable you to take flight and stay in control while doing so. Below, you will find some of the best drone flight controllers on the market to help with your current or upcoming build.
- The Pixhawk PX4 Flight Controller by Readytosky is an option for anyone building a drone. This style has been around a while, so it’s tried and tested to be both effective and reliable.
- Another good option is the DJI Naza-M Multi-Rotor Flight Controller System. This is an easy-to-use controller that includes GPS among other functional features.
- The F7 AIO Flight Controller is an affordable model that also comes with fully functional Bluetooth capabilities. There are a lot of controllers with similar features, but this one stands out thanks to its unique aspects and low price point.
Who Should Get This?
If you’re building a drone, you need a flight controller. There’s no way around it. You can have all of the other pieces assembled, but without this piece of the puzzle, you’ll remain grounded. Think of the flight controller as your drone’s brain. It might be a small part of the overall construction, but its role is absolutely critical. No matter what type of drone you’re building, you need a quality flight controller.
If you’re building your drone from a kit, it might already come with a flight controller. If that’s the case, you don’t need to get one specifically for your build. However, you might want to consider upgrading to one of the options listed here. Chances are, the kit you purchased will function well with the included flight controller. Just make sure it comes with one when you send in your order.
Best Drone Flight Controller: What to Consider
A flight controller’s processor speed is an important thing to consider. General speed has increased dramatically over the last few years. 32-bit processing is the norm these days and faster processors are all built using this sort of design.
An F4 or F7 processor is recommended for a modern flight controller. The ones here give you enough speed to power your drone effectively and reliably. F4 processors can run at an operating frequency of 168 Mhz, while an F7 processor can run at 216 MHz. F4’s will be more affordable and common, but if you want the fastest speed possible, look for an F7.
Sensors are another important consideration. Their quality determines how well your drone operates as well as how easily you can control it. Important aspects of flight are affected by sensors, including the barometer, gyroscope, and accelerometer. All of the options you’ll find here come with quality sensors that you can expect to perform well.
You want to make sure that your flight controller is compatible with the receiver you use to physically control the drone. Most modern flight controllers, and all of the options you’ll find here, are compatible with a wide range of receivers. As such, you won’t need to worry about their ability to interact with one another. Even so, always be sure to check that the flight controller you’re looking at will work with your receiver.
Best Drone Flight Controller: Our Picks
One of the best options you can find to add to your drone build is the Pixhawk PX4 Flight Controller. This comes with a kit that includes the circuit board, safety switch, I2C splitter, and everything else you’ll need to get it installed properly. It’s easy to install and well-designed with a plug-in style board that makes getting everything set up a breeze.
This controller is powered by a 32-bit ARM Cortex M4 processor. It also comes with a backup processor in case of any in-flight issues. Other features include a bus interface with UART, I2C, SPI, and CAN inputs alongside a 14 PMW/servo output. This is a solid flight controller that will work well on most builds.
- 32-bit ARM Cortex M4 processor
- Plug-in style board
- Backup power and backup control feature
- Good customer support
- Micro SD flight recorder
- A little bulky
Another quality flight controller is the DJI Naza-M Multi-Rotor. This is another option that comes in a kit with everything you need to easily install the controller onto your drone. This includes fully functional GPS, LED, and PMU, as well as the necessary cables and adhesives to get the install done properly. If you want a simple to use and effective controller, this is the option for you.
- Great multi-rotor flight controller
- Easy to install and use
- Comes with GPS, LED, and PMU
- Reputable brand name
- A bit expensive
- Can be difficult to install with Windows 10
The F7 AIO Flight Controller is an affordable option that will still deliver quality control and an easy install. This model has a built-in Bluetooth chip, which is a nice feature to have for easy compatibility and connection with other devices, and comes with a slim profile. The lightweight body also means it will easily fit into any drone build with ease. The integrated barometer and battery monitoring system ensures safe and stable flight whether you’re a novice or experienced pilot.
- Easy to install and use
- Built-in Bluetooth chip
- Slim profile
- Integrated barometer
- Battery monitoring system
- USB port is somewhat fragile
- Can have shorting issues
Useful Tips & Resources
While building a drone isn’t all that difficult, it can be really overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. You don’t want to mess up while installing the flight controller because that can lead to many problems with flight and other controls. Check out this video on how to set up and install just about any drone flight controller if you want a good reference.
A flight controller is an important aspect of your drone build that you don’t want to neglect. Getting any of the options you find on this list will provide you with a quality controller that is fast, reliable, and easy to use. It is hard to find many models that combine all of those characteristics so well.
Do you have any tips for installing a flight controller? Is there a specific controller that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments below!
Chris is a lifelong tech enthusiast with a broad range of interests including coding, data analysis, traveling, and more. He used to work as a software programmer immersing himself in the world of codes, now he finds it more interesting talking to real people.